You might think that Volvo wagons are desired only by affluent suburban mothers, but think again: my friend Richard, a 38-year-old hair stylist, is ga-ga over this car. As soon as he saw it in my driveway, he gushed, "That Volvo wagon is BEAUTIFUL! I want it! It would be perfect for me and Walter - I could put a crate in the back for him." Walter is not another man, but rather Richard's snow white Siberian husky. And I agree, both stylish Richard and handsome Walter would look good in the Volvo V70.
Both the exterior and interior of the Volvo V70 have the same, very elegant, very pleasing Scandinavian design sense that permeates the new S80 sedan. The exterior is stunning in an understated, smoothly sculpted way. The strong, characteristic shoulder line of all recent Volvos is retained but is integrated a bit more fluidly. I really, really like the looks of this car. Inside, we find even more simple elegance. I note the lack of a big, multi-function, touch-screen display that seemingly every car with upscale aspirations has these days. But I don't miss it. Such a screen would shout, in an interior that whispers. I note also the lack of leather seats in our $34,410 test car and, again, I don't miss them. Volvo's smooth, tautly woven cloth fabric is rich and pleasing to the eye and touch.
I note the modestly powered, 235-hp, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine and the six-speed automatic transmission. With it, the Volvo is hardly a sport wagon, but power is sufficient. I don't need my Volvo wagon to hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and as equipped, the V70 is rated at 16 mpg city, 24 highway.
Other highlights: The big aperture for the cargo area, the low liftover height, and the flat floor. The extraordinarily comfortable front seats. The well-damped ride. The excellent sightlines.
What you might not like: The aforementioned lack of big-time power. The somewhat-numb steering. The lack of third-row seating. The somber color palette of our test car.
The standard safety features that you surely will like: stability control; tire pressure monitor; side curtain air bags; anti-whiplash head restraints; integrated child booster seats; and other items too numerous to mention.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
When you think station wagons, you usually think Volvo. The V70 is the image of practicality, if not exactly a driving excitement.
While I think the V70 is handsome enough, I prefer the slightly more aggressive and stout look of its all-wheel-drive sibling, the XC70. The interior is mostly standard Volvo, although I did notice that the dashpad material is a nicely grained piece instead of the polka dot material found on our long-term C30 and in the C70. I do wish Volvo would supply two 12-volt accessory plugs like most other automakers.
The driving experience is perfect for someone who's not very into driving; the steering is numb, power is sufficient but not impressive, and the suspension is soft enough that there's a hint of body roll when you push it. But then again, you're not supposed to push a Volvo wagon.
David Gluckman, Web Producer
I like the Volvo V70 but don't even begin to think it is at all exciting. The wagon goes down the road well, is loaded with safety features (it even comes standard with integrated child booster seats), and has a ton of space. I keep thinking back to when Volvo ran 850 wagons in the British Touring Car Championship, and I hope that the brand will once again inject a bit of enthusiasm into their cars, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. My bigger issue with the V70 is its fuel economy. A 16 city/24 highway rating just isn't good enough. Why does the 700 pound heavier, all-wheel-drive Audi A6 wagon earn better EPA numbers? Plus, this Volvo's inline-six isn't very smooth or powerful. The V70 is a perfect candidate for a diesel or a low-pressure turbo gasoline engine. Funny, Volvo has a decent turbocharged five-cylinder that they use in the S60 sedan and that car achieves an EPA estimate of 19 mpg city and 28 highway. Volvo used this engine in the last V70 and it worked well. Why not offer it again?
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
A funny thing happened last night. My dad asked if Volvo still made station wagons when he saw one driving in the opposite direction (we were in his truck running an errand) and I informed him that I had a Volvo wagon for the night. On my way home from the office, I couldn't help thinking this Volvo is the quintessential wagon. Seats are incredibly comfortable, it'll hold lots of stuff, but it isn't enormous to drive, and it'll probably run forever.
So the steering isn't as lively as a Porsche, the body rolls more than a 3-series in turns, and the power isn't explosive. I don't think a lot of wagon buyers are demanding those things right now. If so, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon delivers all that and more. I do think wagon buyer want a bit more fuel economy than the 16/24 mpg ratings of this Volvo. If this car could manage about 30 mpg highway, it would be on the ultimate road trip cars list.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
After a recent stint in Saab's Turbo X, it's nice to get into a Swedish car that actually feels Swedish. I grew up around old Volvos, and while it's obvious that some cost-cutting and corporate parts-bin rummaging has infected the basic concept, the V70 is still a very nice, very Volvo wagon.
More than a few things remind me of my '85 240 DL: uber-comfy, back-friendly seats; an incredibly quiet interior; and slightly manic road manners at 80 mph. The engine is restrained and willing to rev, the steering is a little numb, and if I close my eyes, I could be in my mom's old 850 sedan, save the reduction in NVH.
That said, two very important things popped into my mind. The first one is this: While the V70 is a good car, it's not necessarily a great car. And I don't see anything else classically great in the Volvo lineup. One or two landmark cars per decade used to be their trademark--a decade and a half in, the Ford ownership may be stamping out too much of Volvo's individuality.
The second point is this: While the V70 may not be spectacular, it at least remains a Volvo. For all Ford's flaws, Volvos still feel like they used to; it's instructive in that it shows just how far GM has strayed from the path with Saab.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
There was a time not long ago, when Volvo made a station wagon that was highly desired by automotive journalists. It was called the Volvo Cross Country, with "CROSS COUNTRY" emblazoned across the tailgate. It sat a bit higher being four-wheel drive, looked a lot funkier, had tougher seat material, went a lot farther down the trail. Now THAT was a Volvo station wagon to write home about. This V70 is an elegant hairdresser's sedan, as Joe DeMatio notes. It's compliant in steering and ride to the point of being not so nice to drive. That feeling is compounded when you ask the engine room for steam to pass and it has to think a couple of ticks before giving you the kickdown you need. You need to think twice and plan your move before merging into traffic.
I knew I should have bought one of those Cross Country's when I had a chance.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
This is far from a sports car, obviously, but it's hard not to appreciate a big Volvo wagon. These things are just so dang versatile. On Sunday, I folded the back seats and hauled a small headboard, some scrap metal, and a big cooler to my parents' house and had plenty of room to spare.
The V70 rides a big smoother than the XC70 I drove last fall, but I think this car should still ride a bit better, given its almost complete lack of sporting pretensions. Oomph isn't very strong, either, but it should be sufficient for most Volvo wagon buyers.
Overall styling is conservative yet subtly trendy. For instance, I really like the look of the rear hatch, with its big VOLVO lettering below the backlight, flanked by the tall LED taillamps. And I love, love, love the HVAC locator controls on the center stack - three buttons in the shape of a seated person - with their chrome finish in the daytime that blends to a soft green glow at night.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor